PUMA are today leading a trade wind fuelled drag race north to Recife on the corner of Brazil where the fleet will turn north west towards the Caribbean’s Windward Islands, the only remaining landfall before the Leg 6 finish at Miami.
At 1300 UTC Ken Read’s PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG held a commanding north east advantage over the fleet, leading second placed CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand by 7.7 nautical miles.
Earlier today the American team punched through an obstructive cold front and were the first to benefit from developing trade winds which gave them an immediate jump on the chasing pack.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing remained third, on a more westerly course close to CAMPER, while Team Telefónica and Groupama sailing team were fourth and fifth respectively, having pushed east in hunt for stronger wind and hotter angles.
Over the next 12 hours the teams face a critical decision on just how far east to sail before tacking to the north to clear the Brazilian coast for the last time at Recife.
“That’ll be it and we’ll all line up and it will be a case of ‘have you set up east enough so that you can rotate right up to Recife’,” said CAMPER navigator Will Oxley.
“If you tack in your lane and you’re pointing at Recife straight away you’ve probably gone too far. You’ve got to make sure you have enough in the bank to allow for the breeze to go right.
“If you come in too close to the shore you end up dealing with land and sea breezes which you don’t really want to do, as well as negative residual current,” Oxley added.
Team Telefónica skipper Iker Martínez said the dilemma was how to get to the east while also making progress north towards the finish. Timing this move just right would be critical, Martínez said.
“Everyone wants to be the windward boat, everyone wants to be in the east, but that doesn’t take you closer to the mark,’’ he said.
“Choosing when to go north at the right time is going to be very key in the next few days.”
Groupama helmsman/trimmer Charles Caudrelier said his team’s hunt for better angles in the east had been costly and left them trailing the fleet.
“We’ve been in better positions, it’s true,” he said. “It is a stressful time on board as we are still very, very far from the goal.
“We don’t want to other guys to escape because soon there won’t be as many tactical things to do.”
While Telefónica and Groupama are trailing by more than 31 nm and 69 nm respectively, Volvo meteorologist Gonzalo Infante said they could not be ruled out just yet as the trade winds are expected to ease, compressing the fleet as they near Recife.
Infante said once the fleet rounded the final corner they would be in more stable southeast trades that would herald better angles that would suit strong reaching teams.
The latest estimated time of the fleet’s Miami arrival is on or around May 7.